Archive for February, 2011


 

As I look out from my living room onto the beautiful, snow -capped Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, I can’t help but wish the snow had stayed in the mountains, away from the valley floor and the local golf courses. I enjoy snowboarding and other winter sports, and genuinely look forward to the winter season. Yet, after several months of not playing any golf, I would gladly trade in my snowboard and lift ticket for a new driver and a spot on the first tee.

Stuck inside with green grass and golf shots only viewable on The Golf Channel, I pick up one of my many putters and try several different grips.  The putter feels somewhat foreign to me, and I think about what method I might implement in the coming season. As I sit watching the WGC World Match Play in Arizona, I surprised to see the new approach Matt Kuchar is using this week. You would think the  leading money winner on the PGA Tour with the most top-10 in 2010 would continue with the approach that has brought him much success. However, Kuchar decided to add 5 inches, that’s right 5 inches to his putter! Not only that he switched from being very bent over and putting cross-handed, to standing slightly more upright and using a conventional putting grip.

I’m not sure how many of you watched the Northern Trust last week, but Fred Couples was in contention for much of the event. I only watched a portion of the last day, but If you were watching closely, Couples would switch between putting with a conventional grip and a cross handed grip – on the same hole!

Why I am sharing this with you? Simple – don’t be afraid of change. If two of the best players in the world, are willing to make drastic changes to their putting approach while playing for millions of dollars, what is keeping you from implementing a new approach to putting?  Albert Einstein defined insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…” If this is true, and you are not putting well, the better question is, ‘why wouldn’t you want to change’?

If you are struggling with your putting, I strongly suggest you take 30 minutes, go to the putting green, and try different approaches. Try using a shorter putter, a longer putter, more loft, less loft, different grips – anything that alters from your normal approach. You may just find something that not only feels better, but produces even better results!

 

 

Own Your Golf Swing

To say that there is a certain, correct way to play golf is to say that there is one equation that all artists must be follow to create artwork.  Art is personal preference, comprised of a mixture of feelings, emotions, abilities, beliefs and ideals. This also is true of your golf swing. Personally, I walk fast, talk fast, and happen to play golf with a faster tempo than most instructors would teach. However, this is what has worked for me and opposed to trying to change how I play golf instinctively, I have learned to embrace my tendencies and find success with them. You too need to make your golf swing your own.

This may require hours of practice, maybe some instruction, but above all – it requires patience and dedication. If you are one to easily give up, or desire instant gratification and success, golf is going to present quite a challenge.  However, if you are dedicated to the process and work to understand your golf abilities (both your strengths and weaknesses), the end prize will be a swing that you will have created and is owned by you alone.

Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 major championships and arguably the greatest golfer of all time believed that his, “… ability to concentrate and work toward [a specific] goal has been my greatest asset.” Nicklaus knew when we went to work on his game what exactly he desired to accomplish and went about seeking a process that would allow him to accomplish his goals. These traits and characteristics are something we should strive for in both our lives and our golf swings.

Nicklaus also stuck with primarily one golf instructor (Jack Grout) for the vast majority of his playing years. This allowed him to consistently work with one person who was aware of both his goals and the processes that he was incorporating into the manner in which he played the game. It is fine to switch instructors and seek new advice, but building a relationship with a professional who understands your goals and approach to the game will be of much benefit over the course of time.

If any professional tries to sell you on a universal approach or method, especially without discussing your physical abilities, or watching you demonstrate the skills you already possess, I strongly suggest you move along to the next golf professional.  These instructors try to fit the player into a one-size-fits-all golf swing, and although it may be of significant benefit to a small few, the majority of golfers will be left with little more than a head full of swing thoughts and higher scores.

Find a professional willing to share knowledge and tailor the lessons to your individual needs and abilities, and you will be well on your way to playing better golf!

 

It is not uncommon for someone to show up for a lesson with the hope of learning enough not to embarrass themselves at a charity golf outing, or another business golf event that they are forced to participate in. The majority of charity events, fundraisers, or other business related golf tournaments tend to be played as a scramble. This format, which consists of everyone hitting from the same area, choosing the best result of the group, then having everyone hit again from the best spot and continuing on with the same process until the hole is completed is a great format for those who are not avid golfers.

If you are not a golfer, but hope to contribute and above all else, desire not to embarrass yourself, I would strongly urge you to spend most of your time around the putting green. If you are not athletic, or don’t have a good understanding of how to swing the golf club, chances are you are not going to be hitting 300+ yard drives, and even if you get lucky enough to make solid contact, there is a good chance that someone else in your group will hit a better shot than you.

However, if you work on your shots around the green, and more specifically your putting, this is an area where you can drastically help the team and make a positive impact. Making a 15 foot putt counts just as much as hitting a 300 yard drive, and once you make the putt, no one else has to hit a shot or can better your result. If you desire to make an impact and contribute to the team, a smooth putting stroke and knocking in a couple 20 foot putts will go a long way to improve team morale and make you have a positive impact on the team.

With all that being said, how do get a smooth putting stroke and learn your way around a green? If you aren’t a golfer, (and even if you are,) putting can be tricky. A great way to familiarize yourself with putting is to imagine you are going to gently toss a golf ball towards the hole. Gauge the speed and effort it will take to get the ball close or into the hole. Look at the slopes, distance and any other factors that may affect the path of the ball. It may take you several tries to get a ball close to the hole, but after a few attempts, you will begin to get a “feel” for how hard you have toss the golf ball.  Transfer that same force to the putter and practice hitting putts with different lengths and slopes – some long – some short, some uphill – some downhill.

As for the stroke itself, imagine you are rocking a baby to sleep in your arms. The motion of the shoulders rocking is a basic skill that controls how far you putt the ball. You would rock a baby to sleep with a gentle motion and a smooth change in direction, nothing drastic. That is the exact approach you want to have when putting. Use your shoulders to control the distance and keep a smooth, consistent pace to your putting motion.

Remember, when playing in a charity event or business outings, be sure to compose yourself with confidence and a smile – the way you carry yourself on the golf course speaks volumes about how you carry yourself away from the course as well. With a little luck and some good fortune, you will be able to contribute to the team and it an enjoyable experience for all!

In light of it being Valentine’s  Day and reminiscing of past loves, I realize it often comes down to the first K.I.S.S.  For those of who think I am getting a little too sappy, just read a few more sentences before clicking elsewhere.

When playing or even thinking about golf, I often find myself remembering trendy phrases and this time is no exception. K.I.S.S. not the rock band or the awkward moment during your pubescent years, stands for something quite simple, literally – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

When I have been teaching players who are struggling with their game more than normal, or I often ask them, “What are you thinking about right now?” Rarely, if ever, does the student respond with less than a handful of topics or thoughts. At this point I usually ask them to stop thinking about anything, see the shot they want to hit in their mind, and then swing. More often than not, the result is much better than the previous swing.

We live in an age with technology at our fingertips and a desire for more and more information in hopes of obtaining instant gratification. This mindset has no doubt crept into all of your habits, golf included. When I first began teaching, I felt obligated to provide my students with mountains of information, to ensure they felt justified in spending money I was charging for a lesson. I quickly found out, that often less is more when it comes to teaching, and even playing. ‘

If you are currently struggling with your game, as opposed to picking up the newest magazine or DVD instructional video from the trendiest new teacher, I implore you to put your money towards a round of golf late in the afternoon when you can play by yourself and play 9 holes. focus on nothing more than making a turn away from the ball and swinging through to a solid finish.  K.I.S.S., make up (your mindset)  and let your game come back to you!

 

GOLF – How do you….Use it?

Golf has advanced incredibly over its existence from the Scottish farmers striking stones with sticks in pastures, into the multibillion dollar industry that it has become today. According to the World Golf Foundation the United States alone had a golf economy in excess of $76 billion in 2010. This speaks volumes not only to the growth of the game, but also to the dynamic presence of golf.

Golf is a thriving economy, which people use to facilitate a multitude of purposes. Doctors prescribe golf for rehabilitation, parents use it for childcare, investors use it for profit and tax benefits, elite players make millions playing it, the government uses it as a tool to create public wellness, corporations use it to schmooze clientele, instructors develop academies and schools around its concepts (both the physical components and business aspects), non-profits use it to impress life skills upon our future generations, while others simply play the game for enjoyment. I’m sure there are many other ways that people use golf to fit into their personal agenda.

However, there is no clear right or wrong way to use the game as long as you maintain its integrity.  My point is that golf is no longer a game that only our grandparents or the retired folk that live in Florida play, but it is a functional tool that can be used to complete an indefinite number of objectives.

If the functional capacity of golf has changed drastically over time, shouldn’t our approach and understanding of the game grow at a similar rate? My answer is a resounding yes, yet I am astonished to find this rarely to be the case! The next question that presents itself is the ever-present – why? The answer is simple; people are both uneducated and highly resistant to change.

In order to grow the game aspect of golf (to which this blog is dedicated), we must be willing to re-examine the “rules of golf” and maintain an ever-growing quest for knowledge. The more knowledge we are able to acquire, the better informed decision we will be able to make, thus, providing the best chance of success. Success, in the end, is truly what we are all seeking. Yet, how we define success, in this case specifically in relation to golf, makes us all unique and our journeys unique.  Just as there is no one right way to swing the golf club, there is not one clear, universal path to success.

I hope the topics covered in the future will be beneficial for all who read it. My goal is to create a platform for thoughtful and thought-provoking discussing regarding the many aspects of golf. If we are willing to listen and learn from one another, without passing judgment, we are taking the first step on our journey towards success. Please come along, let’s work together, and see where this journey leads!